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An Artist’s Ode to Handwritten Letters from Creative Men

An Artist’s Ode to Handwritten Letters from Creative Men:

Everywhere you go someone wants to sell you something. Companies employ a smarmy sense of false intimacy, like a brand could ever be your friend. Or try to replicate authentic moments of vulnerability to bond with you, even though it’s a car insurance website. For all the focus on authentic experiences, we live in terribly inauthentic times.

I think this awareness makes us way more skeptical and cynical than our grandparents or parents. But who can blame us? Everyone you know spit-shines and curates their online presence like they have a corporate PR department living in their heads. When everyone and everything is a brand, we subconsciously grasp that all these presentations and performances are fake. When you deal with so much falseness every single day it increases your need for authenticity, for things like moments of genuine vulnerability. We want to feel it’s real. Whatever it is.

One thing that still feels real is a handwritten letter.

If one were to look for expressed intimacy among men–besides visiting a Facebook group for Bronies–where would you go online to find that sort of genuine vulnerability? Just thinking about that question makes you feel a little weird, right? Like, um, bruh, I don’t do that. Yeah. Uh. Me, neither. Yet we still seek authenticity in this era of personal branding. This tension is what motivated writer/pop artist Alex Kazemi to create a new online gallery called The Advisor. He believes he’s discovered a treasure trove of wisdom and insights into masculinity, an authentic intimacy and moments of genuine vulnerability in the handwritten letters of creative men.

This is not the first time Kazemi has explored intimacy and vulnerability. Last year we told you about Mudditchgirl91 in a post appropriately entitled, “Well, This Is Certainly the Weirdest Snapchat Story of All Time.” If you missed it, the short film project was about a teen girl who passes time in her bedroom recording herself making bizarre declarations and doing extreme lovesick teenage things, as well as not such teenage things, like cutting out her own tongue. The shockingly intimate art project was conceived and directed by Kazemi and featured Bella McFadden, Internet Girl.

Kazemi is back to exploring intimacy; only this time he focuses on the vulnerability of grown men. His online gallery is an evolving archive, and Kazemi says he plans to publish one new letter each week. He describes the letters as artifacts and “pillars of advice, mentorship, and personal anecdotes, offering a peek into the inner worlds of culture’s most paramount male creatives.”

The fact the letters are handwritten is important. Not only does it authenticate the words and the experience of reading the letter, but, as Kazemi puts it, “One man’s handwriting will never be the same as another man’s. Every man is an individual. Even though everyone everyday is taking pictures through the same iPhone lens, and everyone’s following the same content, on the same social media, I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit remembering that everyone is different. Handwriting is a good reminder.”

A gallery of handwritten letters could be a good and fine example of male intimacy—the sort of real advice we all benefit from hearing from time to time. The project is intriguing.

The gallery is new, and the sample size is small, but I hope Kazemi can live up to the promise of his premise and that his gallery of letters follows in line with the same epistolary tradition that pushed Hemingway to pen his thoughts and emotions to his buddy F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Just take a gander at this one from Fitzgerald to Hemingway, and you’ll see these men wrote raw, honest and often hilarious letters:

Please write me at length about your adventures—I hear you were seen running through Portugal in used B.V.D.’s chewing ground glass and collecting material for a story about boule players; that you were publicity man for Lindbergh; that you have finished a novel a hundred thousand words long consisting entirely of the word “balls” used in new groupings; that you have been naturalized a Spaniard, dress always in a wine-skin with “zipper” vent and are engaged in bootlegging Spanish Fly between St. Sebastian and Biarritz where your agents sprinkle it on the floor of the Casino. I hope I have been misinformed but, alas!, it all has too true a ring. For your own good I should be back there, with both of us trying to be good fellows at a terrible rate. Just before you pass out next time think of me.

We need arenas for hard-hitting male intimacy. Or as Kazemi summarizes rather succinctly, “I want The Advisor to showcase men who have fought to be themselves.”

Zaron Burnett is Playboy’s roving correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: Zaron3.

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